What Climbing Mt. Katahdin Taught Me
“You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
My father has been hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) for 46 years.
The AT is more than 2000 miles long. It begins in Georgia and ends in Maine on Mount Katahdin.
Some people (thru-hikers) do the whole trail, start to finish, in 4-6 months.
My dad started walking on the trail in 1972.
Since then he’s gone back to hike different sections of the AT doing 50-100 miles of it at a time.
Last week, at 70 years old, my dad hiked the last 11 miles of the AT and reached the summit of Mount Katahdin.
I was there with him on what turned out to be the hardest hike I’ve every done.
Like holy crap, my legs are spaghetti, hard.
For 11 hours I had to do physical stuff I thought I couldn’t do, like pull myself up over giant boulders and hang off of little pieces of rebar as I lowered myself down.
It was exhausting. This week, I’m covered in bruises and scrapes.
So why did I do it?
I said YES to this hike because I wanted to be there when my dad accomplished a goal he’d been working at for a lifetime.
I said YES because I knew I would regret not being there to celebrate with him.
I said YES to discomfort over regret.
And boy, was there a lot of discomfort.
But I was there when my dad completed a lifetime of work.
Here’s what happened when I made the choice to push myself to do something I wasn’t sure that I could do:
I learned that I’m physically stronger than I think I am.
I learned that I am able to tolerate more discomfort than I thought I could.
I was reminded that being clear on WHY I am doing something very hard (to honor my dad) matters.
I was reminded that having support along the way to keep my spirits high and (literally) pull me up matters.
I was reminded to not believe the stories I’m telling myself about what I cannot do.
Because I did it.
And now I know I can do it again.
Climbing Katahdin reminded me about what it takes to grow and make positive changes:
1. It’s not about speed. Reaching your goals or building new practices will sometimes take years, maybe decades. Just because you’re going slowly doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. And it doesn’t make it any less worthwhile to pursue them.
2. It’s not just about the goal. It’s critical that we learn to enjoy or feel intrinsically rewarded by the process of trying. If it was only about the goal, my dad would have been miserable hiking all of those decades. It wasn’t just about something being attained in the future. It was about the journey (cliche? yes. still true though).
3. It’s not going to be comfortable. If you want to accomplish something big or hard, there will be discomfort along the way. Period. When we’re walking along the edge of something new, it’s not about staying comfortable. It’s about growing (and they don’t call them “growing cuddles”…it’s growing pains, my friends).
My dad would have been way more comfortable spending his annual vacation in the Bahamas. But he choose to hike the AT every summer instead, so that he could achieve something deeply meaningful to him.
I would have been way more comfortable cheering my dad on from the couch. But I choose to hike a mountain to be there with him, so that he would know how much he means to me.
And it often means doing things differently than other people (my dad comes very close to holding the record for the longest section hike ever. Very few people tackle the AT the way he did). Following your own path can be uncomfortable too.
What are you willing to get uncomfortable for?
What do you want to accomplish or change?
What is the thing you think you can’t do?
You can do it.
But if you’re struggling to create change, like developing healthy boundaries, you’re normal.
Not a failure. Not broken. Not a lost cause.
You’re just human.
Creating changes, like developing and upholding boundaries is a lifetime practice.
It’s a 2000 mile long trail that most people never even step foot on because it feels too hard to begin.
So just take the first step.
You might be tempted to stay in your comfort zone. It’s the “devil you know.”
You may be thinking it’s better to stick with the pain of staying the same, then to risk the pain of growing.
“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin
If you want to take the next steps then you will need clarity (a map!), support, and accountability.
You can find that kind of help through great books, mentors, friends, and classes.
It’s also where 1-1 coaching comes in.
If you’re not sure how to take those first steps or you need help to keep moving forward, coaching can help you move along that growing edge.
As a coach, I’m your trail guide.
I’ll be there to help you figure out the next best step, pushing you up the boulders, offering snacks to boost your energy (hello mindfulness + self-care!), and turning on my flashlight so you can see the trail again.
If that sounds good, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute call with me and we can figure out if coaching together is the right fit for you.
There’s no obligation to sign up for coaching. This is just a chance to explore the idea.
Remember: you can do the things you think you cannot do. You just do them one step at a time, with lots of breaks (and snacks) along the way.
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